Religion and the morality of mentality

Adam B. Cohen, Paul Rozin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

201 Scopus citations


Christian doctrine considers mental states important in judging a person's moral status, whereas Jewish doctrine considers them less important. The authors provide evidence from 4 studies that American Jews and Protestants differ in the moral import they attribute to mental states (honoring one's parents, thinking about having a sexual affair, and thinking about harming an animal). Although Protestants and Jews rated the moral status of the actions equally. Protestants rated a target person with inappropriate mental states more negatively than did Jews. These differences in moral judgment were partially mediated by Protestants' beliefs that mental states are controllable and likely to lead to action and were strongly related to agreement with general statements claiming that thoughts are morally relevant. These religious differences were not related to differences in collectivistic (interdependent) and individualistic (independent) tendencies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)697-710
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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